by: JO WHEAT - North Marion running back Tyler Saucedo carries the ball down the right sideline in the Huskies 55-36 loss to North Valley in the play-in round of the 4A state playoffs Friday. Saucedo led the team with 14 carries for 90 yards and three touchdowns in the Huskies first home postseason game since 1951.The North Marion football team hung up their helmets and pads for the final time last Friday following the Huskies’ 55-36 loss to the North Valley Knights in the play-in round of the OSAA playoffs.

Although the players were predictably upset after the team’s second straight loss to end the season, head coach Doug Bilodeau pointed out all the positives of the 2013 season that culminated in the Huskies’ first postseason appearance since 2009.

“They wanted to go another week, but they accomplished a lot,” said Bilodeau. “They’re upset because they lost, but deep down in their hearts, I think they know that they did a good job.”

The game pitted two evenly matched teams on paper against each other at North Marion High School, where the Huskies hosted their first home playoff game in 62 years.

North Marion got on the board first quarter with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Ben Crumley to Kyle Williamson before the Knights tied the game at 7-7. Junior running back Tyler Saucedo gave North Marion the lead back in the second quarter after scoring one of his three touchdowns of the day, but the Knights took advantage of five Husky turnovers the rest of the way to pull away for the win.

“Had we not given them a short field, that wouldn’t have happened and I think it would have been more of a battle,” said Bilodeau. “But they regrouped and kept fighting.”

North Valley scored 41 points in the second and third quarters combined to take a 48-23 lead in the final quarter. The Huskies continued to battle, scoring on touchdowns from Saucedo and Shane McKillip in the fourth quarter, but the team simply had too much distance to make up against the Knights.

Statistically, the team was led by Saucedo, who carried the ball 14 times for 90 yards. He scored twice on the ground and once more on a 21-yard pass from Crumley in the third quarter to cut the score to 41-23.

Crumley finished the game connecting on 17 of 35 passes for 233 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in his final game with the Huskies. His favorite targets on the night were Williamson – six catches for 55 yards and a touchdown – and McKillip, who caught four balls for 54 yards and a score.

After the game, Bilodeau praised his team for their effort this year in building a successful football program at North Marion that he expects to continue next season and beyond.

“There’s a lot of things that happened that were just unbelievable,” said Bilodeau. “I’m excited, and I told the kids after the game, ‘Hey, you raised the bar. This is our starting point. This is where we start from.’”

Perhaps the biggest accomplishment this season was going 4-1 in league play after winning just one game in the Tri-Valley Conference over the past three seasons combined.

“They broke some barriers,” said Bilodeau. “I’m always proud of the guys. They battled it out with some good teams and we lost to some good teams too.”

The North Marion coach said he will remember this team for its persistence and determination, but also for the team’s playful personality throughout the season.

“I’ll remember their sense of humor,” said Bilodeau. “I’ve never met a chattier bunch of guys in all the years I’ve been coaching. You couldn’t have a quiet moment. They were special in that way.”

With the season complete, the Huskies have a solid foundation to build upon in 2014 when the team is expected to move to the Oregon West Conference.

“I’m happy,” said Bilodeau. “I wish it could have gone further, but it wasn’t there, so the bar’s been raised and we have a place to start.”

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